While Sydney is famously lacking when it comes to great hotels, for perfect views of the Opera House, there’s only one choice: the Park Hyatt. But to really get under the skin of the city, rent an apartment outside downtown but inside the harbour or beachside suburbs. For the best selection of serviced properties, such as Billyard, a chic waterside apartment with a private ocean pool, visit contemporaryhotels.com.au.
Where to eat
Exquisite Australian seafood and produce take centre stage at Fred’s, the Paddington restaurant helmed by Chez Panisse alumna Danielle Alvarez, who has brought a Californian sensibility to Sydney’s white-hot dining scene. Expect a deft touch, with reef fish cooked in the hearth of a pretty dining room. Saint Peter is from wunderkind ‘fish butcher’ Josh Niland, the country’s most interesting young chef, who uses all sorts of different cuts of the day’s catch to stunning effect.
What to do
In a country where swimming is virtually a religion, the rock pools and ocean baths of Sydney are its holiest sites. Arguably the country’s most spectacular and without question its most photographed pool is Bondi Icebergs, an eight-lane swimming spot built into the beachside cliffs. Continue from here along the spectacular mile-long coastal walk to Bronte Beach, a crescent of golden sand bookended by a rock pool and a sandstone outcrop.
Where to shop
For linen leisurewear, head to the beachside store of Venroy, a label that began life as a swimwear shop founded by a pair of reformed surfers. Playa is the pink Bondi Beach store of Lucy Folk, whose quirky sunglasses and jewellery are gaining cult status. Zimmerman, the fashion brand that has exploded internationally, sells the feminine designs of a sister duo who have always taken their inspiration from the city. Koskela is the closest answer Australia has to a homegrown concept store. Come here for contemporary furniture and accessories with a clever nod to kitsch.
What to see
There are few more hallowed performance spaces in the world than the Sydney Opera House. Highlights in January include Joan Sutherland Theatre presenting La Bohème and Turandot. Or catch the Sydney Festival throughout January at Carriageworks, including performances by the Sydney Chamber Opera and Neneh Cherry (not, sadly, on the same bill). If visiting at the end of the year, jostle for a vantage point to see the New Year’s Eve fireworks light up the harbour.